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Parachuting Cat

Updated: Jul 17, 2021

Parachuting Cats, the first time I heard about it, I thought it was a fantasy story, a work of fiction. But to my surprise it wasn’t! This historical event is a case study often used to teach topics like organisational structure, concepts of leadership, policy making, and interconnectedness of nature. However, here I would like to use this as an exemplary story on effective decision making.

In the early 1950's, the Dayak people of Borneo suffered a malarial outbreak. The World Health Organisation (WHO) had a solution: to spray large amounts of DDT to kill the mosquitoes that carried the malaria.

The mosquitoes died; the malaria declined; so far so good. But there were unexpected side effects. Amongst the first was that the roofs of the people's houses began to fall down on their heads. It seemed that the DDT had also killed a parasitic wasp which had previously controlled thatch-eating caterpillars. Worse, the DDT-poisoned insects were eaten by geckoes, which were eaten by cats. The cats started to die, the rats flourished, and the people were threatened by outbreaks of typhus and plague. To cope with these problems, which it had itself created, the WHO was obliged to parachute 14 000 live cats into Borneo. Operation Cat Drop, now almost forgotten at the WHO, is a graphic illustration of the interconnectedness of life, and of the fact that the root of problems often stems from their purported solutions.

(Quoted in Rachel Wynberg and Christine Jardine, Biotechnology and Biodiversity: Key Policy Issues for South Africa, 2000)

Before you read further, take a moment to reflect on your own thoughts after reading this. What was the thought that invoked in you while reading about ‘Operation Cat Drop’?

The first thought that came to me, while I was reading this extract was, ‘there must have been someone who would have advised them against this decision of dropping DDT’ , but like in most disaster movies, it's common not to listen to the person standing against the popular decision. And the most common reason for this is tunnel vision in problem solving, personal agenda, ego, and most importantly poor counsel (particularly yea-sayers and ego-feeder).

As my mentor John says “A leader's potential is determined by those closest to him”. This leadership nugget can be applied in a larger context to say ‘a person’s quality of decision is determined by those closest to him/her’.

Who helps you in your decision making? Here are few thoughts to consider while creating a strong ‘think team’ to help you improve the quality of decision making, personally, professionally and socially.

  • Do they have your best interest at heart?

  • Do they challenge you to get better and push you to make better decisions?

  • Do they have the ability or the experience or the thoughts or the worldview that complements your decision making deficit?

  • Do they have an inclination for growth and constantly strive to improve themselves?

  • Do they add value to others in their sphere of influence?

Lastly the most important fact, ‘Like Attracts Like’, according to the Law of Attraction, you attract people similar to your way of thinking, that means, if you have a tunnel vision, most often you invariably wind up attracting others with tunnel vision.

Hence creating or seeking a great ‘think team’ has to start with you identifying and improving your limiting beliefs, unhelpful habits and your worldview. When you do so, you will be able to attract a great group of people who forms your inner circle to help you in your moral dilemmas, knowledge gaps, relationship conundrums and dream achievement. A powerful ‘think team' that will help you with effective decision making

Ask yourself now, who is on your Think Team... yesterday, today and tomorrow!

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